Over the past couple of months, I’ve noticed many complaints from adults with autism that they are tired of non-autistics speaking for them. The fact that I’ve only recently really noticed these complaints doesn’t mean the complaints haven’t been around longer than that, nor does it mean that the complaints aren’t valid. There are many cases of non-autistics trying to say what they think is best for autistics. (I don’t think I need to go into specifics.)
However, this is a distinct problem from something that has come up more recently: complaints about the media choosing to interview non-autistics instead of autistics when producing stories about autism. The most recent example of this is the reaction to Kristina Chew’s interview with Newsweek on the subject of parent’s reactions to “political pandering” to parents of disabled children.
Now I don’t know how Newsweek chose Kristina for the interview, but I have the feeling it had a lot to do with the fact that she blogs about her experiences parenting an autistic child. Not only does she blog, she blogs extensively, prolifically, and very eloquently. In short, the interviewer already had a pretty good idea of what Kristina would say in response to certain questions, and in those cases where she didn’t she had a pretty high level of confidence that Kristina would come through. Reporters are like anyone else: if there is an “easy” way to do their job and a “hard” way, they will choose the easy way.
If you would like for reporters to seek out your opinion on something you care about, the trick is to make them see you as a way to make their job easy. Blogs are a great tool to achieve this. If you want to get your word out about being the parent of an autistic child, write about being the parent of an autistic child. If you want to get your word out about being the autistic parent of an autistic child, write about being the autistic parent of an autistic child. If you want to get your word out about life as an autistic adult, write about your life as an autistic adult.
It’s as easy as that.